College Football Final – Guilford 42, Emory & Henry 38

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Redshirt-junior De’Eric Bell (Jackson, Ga./Jackson) ran for three scores and returned a kickoff for a fourth in Guilford College’s 42-38 comeback win over Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC)-rival Emory & Henry College Saturday. The season-ending contest closely resembled Guilford’s (5-5, 3-3 ODAC) historic 2013 win over the Wasps (3-7, 1-5 ODAC) in which the Quakers overcame a 31-0 third-quarter deficit.

Bell scored each of his school-record-tying four touchdowns in the second half to help the Quakers rally from a 21-0 halftime hole. His one-yard plunge with 2:11 left in regulation capped the Quakers’ rally and gave them their only lead of the game.

Emory & Henry moved into Guilford territory on the ensuing possession before the Quakers’ Trevon Simmons (Douglasville, Ga./South Paulding) forced a Brad Puccio fumble at the 39-yard line. Guilford’s J.T. Carmichael recovered the loose ball, which marked the defense’s fifth forced turnover of the game. A Wasps’ penalty put the ball at Emory & Henry’s 47-yard line where Bell ran twice for a first down, which enabled Guilford to run out the clock for their third win in four games.

Freshman quarterback Hunter Taylor sparked Emory & Henry to a three-touchdown halftime lead with touchdown passes of 47 and 31 yards to Derrick Yates. He also scored on an 11-yard run early in the second quarter. The first half was all Emory & Henry as the Wasps had 366 total offensive yards to Guilford’s 92 at the break. Yates, who finished with nine receptions for 209 yards, had seven grabs for 174 yards by halftime.

The Quakers started their comeback on the second-half’s first series when senior Karsten Miller (Thomasville, N.C./North Davidson (NW Mississippi C.C.)) threw a 19-yard touchdown to his brother, Khylil (Thomasville, N.C./North Davidson (Eastern Kentucky)), less than two minutes into the third quarter. After the teams traded possessions, Guilford’s Reggie Williams picked off Taylor near midfield, which set up Bell’s 13-yard scoring run with 49 seconds left in the third quarter. Harrison Kiser’s (Greensboro, N.C./Page) point-after kick made it a 21-14 contest and set the stage for a wild final stanza. Bell’s first touchdown triggered a string of seven straight scoring possessions between the two teams.

Emory & Henrys’ Isaiah Rogers scored from 38 yards out on the fourth quarter’s first play, which restored a 14-point Wasps’ lead. Guilford responded one play later when Bell returned the kickoff 78 yards down the home sideline for his school-record and NCAA Division III-leading third kickoff return for a touchdown this season. Bell has seven career kick-return touchdowns.

Miller and Taylor traded touchdown tosses before Bell ripped off a 59-yard touchdown on a third-and-one play. Kiser’s point-after got Guilford to within 38-35 with 7:14 remaining in regulation.

The Quakers’ defense got a critical stop when Trevon Simmons picked off Taylor at the Quakers’ 10 on a fourth-down play from Guilford’s 27. The sophomore’s interception and a 44-yard Miller pass to Tyriek Russell (Durham, N.C./Southern Durham) set up Bell’s third rushing touchdown, a one-yard plunge that proved the game-winner.

Guilford’s Bell ran 23 times for 132 yards, 122 in the second half. His three rushing touchdowns gave him 13 for the season, which broke Billy Whitley’s ’76 school standard of 12 set in 1975. Bell’s career-high 175 kickoff return yards in the game stand second in school history and his 324 all-purpose yards rank third all-time.

Miller completed 21-of-33 passes for 220 yards and two scores to nine different receivers. Russell was his top target with eight grabs for 80 yards. Vic Smith, Jr., made a game- and career-high 17 tackles. Julian Cuthbertson finished with 12 stops and made an interception on the Quakers’ five-yard line just before halftime to thwart an Emory & Henry scoring opportunity.

The teams combined for 1,084 total offensive yards, 711 by the Wasps, which ranks 10th in NCAA Division III this season. Taylor completed 23-of-36 passes for 399 yards and three touchdowns, all career highs, but also threw three interceptions. In addition to Yates’ huge day, receiver Jesse Santiago added six receptions for 112 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown catch midway through the fourth quarter. Rodgers ran 20 times for 192 yards (144 in the second half) and one score. As a team, Emory & Henry ran for 312 yards and two touchdowns.